Al Qaeda is kidnapping young children in troubled Somalia and brainwashing them to launch future terrorist attacks, it has been claimed.
The ‘terrorist schools’ keep the children – some as young as seven – chained up to beds while they were taught an extreme version of Islam.
The youths, all under 10-years-old, were also taught about suicide bombings and told they would go to paradise if they killed themselves in ‘martyrdom-operations’.
Pictures of the locked-up children were uncovered by terror investigator Neil Doyle after authorities carried out a raid on a school in Mogadishu.
The teacher claimed that the children were in chains because they missing classes. Most of the children’s parents were unaware they were there. The raid was one of a number of operations sanctioned by the government in recent months and led to the arrest of 200 people.
Mr Doyle, author of Terror Base UK and Terror Tracker, told the Sunday Mirror: ‘The images suggest Al Shabaab has turned to slavery in order to produce a generation of child soldiers and suicide bombers.
Extreme teachings: The children were being taught an extreme version of Islam and told they would go to paradise if they carried out ‘martyrdom-operations’
‘The group has lost a lot of ground to government troops and it almost beggars belief that they have adopted widespread child abuse as a way of trying to engineer a comeback.
Taliban who regularly poison students at girls’ schools and shoot teachers.’
The latest revelation comes just days after Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a remote-controlled bomb that killed at least eight Somali government troops when it hit their vehicle in Mogadishu.
A combined force including Kenyan, Burundian, Ethiopian and Djiboutian troops is planning an offensive on Kismayu, Somalia’s second biggest city, and a hub for Al Shabaab, before then. Al Shabaab has threatened more attacks as Somalia’s three top government officials and a dozen other politicians campaign for the presidency.
Last week the government foiled two would-be suicide bombers who targeted a conference hall where delegates approved a draft constitution. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, military spokesman for Al Shabaab, told Reuters: ‘AMISOM and government forces will never sleep or relax. More explosions await them.’
The uncovering of the schools further underlines fears that Al Shabaab has its terrorist sights set on the UK after identical twin brothers were jailed last week for posing as charity collectors to raise thousands of pounds for terrorist organisations in Somalia.
Shabir and Shafiq Ali, 25, imitated legitimate fundraisers on street stalls collecting money for Palestinians and the world’s poor.
They were caught out after counter terrorism police raided their home and discovered a digital recording of a phone conversation with him.
Sentencing them at the Old Bailey to three years in prison, Mr Justice Fulford said the men sent at least £3,000 to the Horn of Africa.
They were inspired by Al-Qaeda hate preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki, the mastermind behind a series of bomb attacks who was killed in a drone strike last year. The judge added: ‘Both defendants worked to help somebody who was contributing to terrorist activities in a war-torn country in Africa.
‘The court must reflect the seriousness of offences of this kind in sentences given that they were intended to support terrorism.’
Somalia’s increasingly reputation as a terrorist hub led to an international summit earlier this year when Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK must increase its efforts to stop terrorism in Somalia.